The Gift of Failing Forward

Failure is the greatest educator I know.

Nothing sticks or stands out as much as missing the mark. Wins in life are good. But, for me, as an achiever, it’s not long after a high mark that I start looking for another moment to conquer.

Failure, however, reveals ways that I’ve missed the mark. It gives me a chance to get better.

In December of 2012, my wife and I started an apparel company with the intent of using it to raise funds that would help missionaries survive on the mission field. We would create, market, promote, and sell our own products, then give a percentage of the earnings away for each campaign we took on.

Now, this might sound a little crazy, but the plan actually worked.

It was exciting.

We had started the business with just $100, and by the time we had run just 5 campaigns, we had made nearly $10,000. That result might not strike you as earth-shattering, but for 2 entrepreneurial newbies chasing a dream, it was a big deal.  

The plan was simple; as a minister, coming off of a previous job, I would arrange for speaking engagements where we could take our brand with us. In this manner, we could promote our product from two ends, online and in person.

Going into our initial summer, we hit it hard. We were several months in and the business was doing well.

People supported us. Products sold. Ideas became realities and we were happy to have something we could call our own.

Then, things got difficult.

That fall, it was like the well of opportunity just dried up.

I struggled to get engagements booked. Events either fell through or got cancelled. Some people had promised us that they would help to market our products to new audiences. Others had given us guarantees that if we helped them to create a campaign, they would send us the numbers and customers necessary to do some good business. In many or most cases, they did not. Most shocking were when ministers and ministries, people we knew, said they would pay us, but didn't.

I would like to say things got better, but they actually got worse.

Our home went into foreclosure and I struggled to make ends meet for my family. The matter became very real for me, the day my wife called and told me that someone had come by to repossess our car. 

From that point on, our list of struggles only grew. I’d like to say life got easier, I really would. I mean, we were following a dream. We were the ones not just striving to make a living through our passion, but also giving something back to help others. So, why the struggle? 

By the grace of God the situations with our house and car were resolved. In fact, even though it felt as if life was beating us up; like we were the little, awkward kid getting pummeled on the play ground, what we now know beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that God provides. That alone was a lesson worth learning.

I know this might sound ridiculous, but I wouldn't have it any other way. 

You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.
— Johnny Cash

Rehashing the past; repeatedly excavating the many awful things you endured at the expense of life or someone else can only do one thing….make you crazy. [Tweet this]

Yes, there’s wisdom in reviewing the places where you might have missed it.

It’s important to know where you went wrong, so next time you can get it right.

Still, failure is something you have to objectively review, it’s not where you take up residence.

Missed moments will happen, but if you allow them to define you, you’re solidifying their ability to determine who you are for the rest of your life. [Tweet this]

You have to choose to move on. If you don’t, you will forever live defined by what you couldn’t do, as opposed to what you can do.

Here's what you CAN do: Keep Moving Forward.

Bad relationship? Learn and move on.

Missed opportunity? Grow from it.

For me and my family, we had to learn to grow through some really hard times, some of which we are just now seeing the end of. For the first time in a while, we are again beginning to experience financial success.

But success is a poorly defined thing. It simply means that something is what it has become. So, if you’re a doctor, then success means that you have become a doctor. If you’re an artist, then it means that you have effectively established yourself as an artist.

Real achievement is about more than simply bootstrapping your way to the top.

Dreamers dream, but true achievement is about establishing a vision and then setting genuine, achievable goals and actions steps towards that vision.

Hence, those who become successful (insert desired occupation or achievement level here) are those who have determined in the first place, what they wanted to do or be, and then set out to make it happen.

When I was a kid, people used to ask me, “Hey, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Then I grew up, all the while, the question still remained.

So let me ask you, what do you want to be when you grow up?

Because if what you’re doing with your life right now, isn’t somehow paying tribute to where you’ll someday be or where you would like to be, then you’re wasting your time. And if you’re not taking calculated risks to find out what that might look like, then chances are you may never find out.

A typographic piece inspired by real-life events.  (see more here)

A typographic piece inspired by real-life events. (see more here)

My wife and I want to be writers, so we write.

I want to be an artist, so I make art.

We both love teaching, so when the opportunity arises, we teach.

Don’t you see? The title follows the action.

If you want to be a writer, then you just need to start writing.

If you want to be a trapeze artist, then just you need to start trapezing…errr, something like that.

You have to start somewhere. I’m challenging you to start today.

Today...even, right something you love for at least 2 mins. [If you’re wondering, “Why 2 minutes?” Read this article.]

Failure has been my greatest educator, but I’ve learned to fail forward; to project my passion and talents into the next thing. And now that I’ve walked in and out of pretty rugged hardships, the fear that is often associated with failure, I now see as a façade.

There’s so much more we want to do at WATV (WeAreTheVigilant). We have some good things cooked up for our growing community, which means, if you’re subscribed or when you do, you’ll be getting in on the action at the ground level.

Building what you love or what you long to see in the world is hard work, but it’s also exciting & immensely rewarding.  

It all has to start somewhere.

Why not now? Why not today? Why not you?

The only time you ultimately fail, is if you never choose to begin.

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